, April 24 (IANS) Thirty elephants vying with each other in a colourful display of umbrellas, including some that looked like a seven-storied building, Saturday enthralled lakhs of people who gathered at the Thrissur Pooram, considered the mother of all festivals in Kerala.
The two most important events in the 30-hour-long Thrissur Pooram include the parading of 15 caparisoned elephants each between the Krishna Temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi Temple at Paramekkavu.
They vie with each other in 'Kudamattam', a colourful display of umbrellas that are raised by the mahout sitting atop the elephant.
'Fifteen people stand besides every elephant and hand over the umbrellas to the mahout. The beauty of this is the design of the umbrellas,' said veteran elephant expert Jacob Cheeran, who has seen more than 50 Poorams.
'The colour and design of the umbrellas are top secret and very few people know about it till they are raised,' he added.
The umbrellas come in various sizes, shapes, colours and designs. There were umbrellas which looked like a seven-storied building.
'Getting selected to be one of the 30 elephants is a reason to be proud for its owner because it is only the best in size, shape and discipline that gets selected,' Cheeran said.
In all, more than 60 elephants take part in the entire festivities.
With the mercury going up, an elephant collapsed around 3 p.m. as the festival events were on.
'The heat is a detrimental factor for these animals. People poured water on the body of the elephant and in 15 minutes it was up on its feet. The organisers withdrew the elephant after that,' Cheeran said.
The festival dates back to the late 18th century and was started by Sakthan Thampuran, the maharaja of the erstwhile Kochi state.
The highlight is a performance by 'melam' artistes and magnificent fire works, including a riot of colours, which make the Thrissur Pooram a memorable event.
'For the last few days, the city is in a festive mood. The festival is a combination of colour, culture, tradition and a fabulous display of fireworks,' said German tourist Claus Rindle, who is here for the second time in two years with his wife.
The fireworks display is a competition between the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devasoms who present several innovative patterns and varieties of fireworks every year.
The fireworks begin around 3 a.m. and go on till daybreak.
Another feature of the Thrissur Pooram is its secular nature with the active participation of Muslims and Christians.
The local administration made elaborate arrangements with significant importance given to security, with a large number of police and fire brigade personnel on duty.
A good number of veterinarians with tranquilizers were ready to tackle any elephant that played truant.
Officials pointed out that arrangements were made for more than four lakh people who are believed to have attended the festival.